“He who gives what he would readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self-sacrifice.” – Henry Taylor, English dramatist (1800-1886)
If someone has their hand outstretched, literally begging for money, do we toss in a few coins out of pity or a desire to be generous? If it’s just pennies at the bottom of our purse or a single we’ve gotten in change after purchasing our morning latte, does it matter that we consider the amount trivial? Does it hurt us in any way to part with our money? If not, maybe we’re not giving in the true spirit. Then again, isn’t all giving somewhat generous? What are we to make of the true spirit of giving?
It appears that Taylor would say that it has to hurt in order to qualify as generosity. With the great need today that so many people around the world have for the generosity of others, perhaps there’s a more sanguine way to look at generosity. Maybe it’s more to do with our intention than how much we can or can’t afford to part with the money. The same holds true of actions we take to help others. We don’t need to suffer because we’ve decided to help another person in their time of need, or even to exercise courtesy and goodwill. What does matter is that we want to do this, and without any expectation of reciprocity.
After all, if we have it – money, time, expertise – why not share it with others? What possible harm could that do, especially when we weigh it against the potential benefits?
Still, there’s much to be said about self-sacrifice. Sure, we could use those extra coins or dollar bills to buy something else for ourselves or our family members. We could put it in the drawer or wherever else we accumulate spare change and odd bills, to be used whenever we need a few bucks and just happen to have them handy. But making a conscious decision to give until it hurts, to exceed what is normally expected – that’s a real demonstration of generosity, it would seem. We can all probably appreciate the generosity of others in our time of need, so paying attention to how much good we can do by making our contributions even if they pinch a bit could be illuminating.
It ought to also feel good. Give because we want to, not because we feel we have to. This is the true spirit of giving (even if it hurts just a little).